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Coil Processing
Tuesday | 20 March, 2018 | 9:04 am

A step ahead

Written by By Gretchen Salois

Above: View from drive side of Ohio Gratings’ new slitting line with tension stand, leveler and exit shear from Butech Bliss.

Grating manufacturer plans for the future with versatile, heavy-duty slitting line

March 2018 - As demand for its products grew, executives at Ohio Gratings Inc. realized there was a limit to what its outside toll processors could achieve to meet increased volume, particularly for slitting heavy-gauge steel.

Slitting heavy-gauge material is a slower process than thin gauge when the same standard of accuracy and quality is required, and many toll processors install lines that will take off material quickly and in great volume.

Canton-based Ohio Gratings manufactures 0.059 gauge up to 1⁄2-inch-thick steel bar from flat-rolled sheet and plate. “It made sense to bring more versatility, flexibility and narrow-cut, heavy-gauge slitting in house,” says President and CEO John Bartley.

Ohio Gratings has constructed an expansion to its existing facility to accommodate the new line. “We’re very excited,” Bartley says. “Probably more than 50 percent of our current slitting capacity was outsourced and now we will be able to bring more than 90 percent of that in house.” As economic activity improves, “we’ll be able to be more flexible with our scheduling and provide faster delivery.”

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Notching unit and centering guides one of the slitter heads to facilitate plunge slitting.

Improved flexibility is a focal point for Ohio Gratings as the manufacturer will no longer need to hold steel at vendor locations. “Now we can bring it in and cut what we need when we need it and respond quicker than before,” says Shaun Eller, COO. “This flexibility will translate into Ohio Gratings providing a broader range of grating products. Our competitors are interested in selling commodity grating panels and limited sizes. While the industry as a whole is saying no, Ohio Gratings can now say yes.”

Size matters

After receiving quotes from multiple vendors, Butech Bliss in Salem, Ohio, was able to offer the slitting capability Ohio Gratings wanted, its director of manufacturing, Kurt Hinzman, says. “Several of their competitors balked at that size range. Usually you can have a line that does lighter gauge work really well and a separate line for heavier gauge.”

Another differentiating factor is that all the other machinery builders “pushed their standard lines and general package options, but that’s not what we needed,” Hinzman says. “We weren’t looking for the cheapest option; we needed something unique and Butech was [able] to show they could meet those needs.”

During the research phase, Ohio Gratings leaders visited a company that decided to rip out a relatively young line in order to upgrade to a custom line from Butech Bliss. “You’re supposed to get 20 to 30 years, minimum, out of a line like this one but they were changing theirs out after only seven or eight years to switch to Butech,” recalls Hinzman. “For them to be willing to change providers in order to start over with Butech says something.”

Instead of steering Ohio Gratings into features they may not need, Butech worked with Hinzman and his team to build a sturdy line that met all requirements. And because of Butech’s proximity, “it’s comforting to know we can get help quickly if needed.”

Flexible functionality

Butech Bliss builds durable equipment that can handle a wide range of material thicknesses “while maintaining a good performance from an uptime standpoint,” says Al Waigand, vice president of sales and marketing.

The line built for Ohio Gratings uses variable frequency AC drives on both the uncoiler and recoiler. For thread-up, “we use a combination of VFAC hydraulic motor drives,” explains Bob Dance, project manager at Butech Bliss.

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A separator disc unit was incorporated in the recoiler at the exit end.

Ohio Gratings’ line features an interchangeable two-slitter head arrangement so it can set up knives and spacers for the next job offline when changing from one material to another. This reduces downtime from run to run.

The slitter is equipped with a scrap chopper instead of winders or ballers, which can be a safety issue and require more maintenance than a scrap chopper, says Waigand. The scrap trim is automatically fed into the chopper and at Ohio Gratings, the scrap conveyor deposits the cut pieces into hoppers outside the building, making it convenient to haul the scrap away without any disruption to the operations.

Butech Bliss also offers scrap removal cars that haul away the heads and tails of coils from the shear as these cannot be chopped in line, according to Dance.

Welding and threading

“At the recoiler, a lot of other lines require you to band material while on the recoiler,” Dance says. “Ohio Gratings does not want to band their mults (slit coils), they want to weld the tails. This line has the ability to take the mults off the recoiler mandrel and load them onto the coil car. There are sufficient hold-downs to enable the crew to safely weld the mult tails with the coil car offline. This allows them to thread the next coil and start slitting without having to wait for banding or welding of the mults.”

A threading device at the exit end of the recoiler secures the leading ends of the mults and transfers them directly into the recoiler gripper bar. This line can make up to 60 cuts at one time. “So when you have a lot of narrow mults, you have to guide each one of those head ends into the recoiler gripper bar,” explains Dance. “With this threading device on the exit end, it grips the mults while contained in the retention device and threads that down and places the lead ends of all the mults into the gripper on the recoiler.”

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Ohio Gratings produces aluminum bar grating, aluminum plank, carbon and stainless steel grating, stair tread and more.

Ohio Gratings’ non-standard package includes a straightener. “Often times—especially on heavier gauge material—you can induce crossbow into the material when you slit it,” Waigand says. “The straightener eliminates that. The benefit to the user is they don’t have to wrestle with material shape problems when they weld various pieces of grating together.”

Solution-based business

“The new slitting line allows us to be a solution-based business because we can engineer a solution based on customer need,” Eller says. “The line can be adjusted as time goes on and technology changes and we believe this strategy will carry us into the future of the industry.”

“Our vision is to promise to stay a step ahead of the marketplace,” Bartley says. “The installation of this slitter is a major step along those lines. As the domestic steel market evolves, we’ll be able to meet those changing customers’ needs ahead of the marketplace.”

“We know the industry is changing with new materials including high-strength, low-alloy materials. Butech has made it clear they’ll make changes in our line as the industry demands. Whatever it takes,” Hinzman says. MM

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